Odierno: Budget cuts contribute to U.S. readiness issues

While a smaller Army must still be prepared for unknown contingencies, sequester issues on top of previous budget cuts are impacting military readiness, Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno said on Tuesday.

Odierno spoke to reporters at the Defense Writers Group on Tuesday about the scheduled cut of 80,000 soldiers from its ranks. Odierno said readiness issues are increasing with fiscal year 2013 shortfalls. Between the war in Afghanistan and the recent sequester, the Army was left with a $13 billion shortfall.

"We've cancelled six National Training Center rotations for the rest of the year, we've reduced flying hours, we've had to degrade services at installations -- right now, we're going to furlough civilians for 14 days," Odierno said. "That's how we're going to pay the bills in (fiscal year) '13."

While the Army will continue to train forces for known contingencies like Afghanistan, the Army will start fiscal year 2014 in a significant readiness hole.

"I see us having a three- or four-year issue with readiness," Odierno said. "Our ability to respond will be degraded and I worry about the unknown contingency... for unknown contingencies our risk goes way up. The environment we are going to have to operate in will be a mix of high-end, combined-arms maneuvers, but also some aspect of counterinsurgency and some aspect of stability operations."

Odierno said the situation was serious and that there were real consequences to military budget cuts.

"I have to make sure that we can meet the needs of this country and when they need them, they are ready," Odierno said. "When the Army gets involved and when you are not ready, the cost is lives."